An Army Wife's Life

Once upon a time I was a college student, then I was a teacher, and now I'm a mother. Technically, I'm currently a freelance writer... but really I am an ARMY WIFE. Expect to find... funny (at least to me) anecdotes, thoughts about la vida military, hopes, anxieties, dreams, commentaries on current events.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hands Tied

To give you an idea of some of the absurd rules and regulations we deal with as FRG volunteers:

Our FRG is hoping to provide each incoming single soldier with some of the essentials they will need upon their return--sheets, towels, toiletries, etc. We are gathering free samples and also will use some funds for these things as well. However, we would love to also ask for donations. Many companies would be more than happy to donate items if we provide them with an official written request.

The DA has been considering restrictions on FRG soliciting and fundraising. Ft. Hood announced a post policy in advance of new DA rules.

There is allegedly a written policy, but we can't see one. We were told it is still in the draft stage--but we must follow it nonetheless. There are some powerpoint slides--which are vague and ambiguous, but we have been told they mean we basically can't ask for anything. Other FRGs have not been briefed at all on the new "rules" and others have been given different interpretations.

However, we have been warned, commanders will be held responsible if we run afoul of the new rules...which we can't see...but exist...but no one is sure what they are.

The higher ups have a valid concern that local businesses might become weary of repeated requests--which makes sense. However, they have not put anything more efficient or rational in place of the old system (random requests from every FRG).

So, if we basically are not supposed to fundraise (except within the unit families) and solicit, how do we get things for the soldiers and families?

Allegedly we have "sponsors." This is coordinated through Ft. Hood National Bank. However, we have difficulty getting any information. Apparently they do not have enough sponsors for all of the Battalions. Even if you do get a sponsor, there is no consistency. Your sponsor may give out a hundred pads of paper while someone else's sponsor might give every soldier a care package and provide a new computer for a raffle.

There is the wrong way, the right way, the Army way... and the Ft. Hood way.

A Word About OPSEC

PLEASE be careful when sharing information--especially names, unit numbers, troop movements, and dates.

We had a near miss of a huge OPSEC violation that was luckily caught in time. I am not going to "name names" but suffice it to say it is the same individual who has witheld perfectly non-OPSEC information unecessarily and now almost put out some sensitive information. I will just clarify it was not a civilian or soldier at the company level and leave it at that.

I don't know for sure that this is true--but I trust the source.

Anyway...loose lips sink ships. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Better in the dark than to take the risk.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Thank You Clouds!

The sky cleared, the sun came out, and my backyard dried up.

We were missing a couple of our regulars (one out of town, one had some personal things to work out, and another just didn't show), but we had six women plus me and my mom, plus six kids.

I marinated chicken (half citrus/soy and half balsalmic vinegar and rosemary) and made pasta salad and salad. One woman brought a Texas red, white and blue iced cream cake with our FRG leader's name. Some other ladies brought more sides and desserts.

Our FRG leader was totally surprised that we were honoring her hard work--we gave her a charm bracelet with the unit crest, a day spa gift certificate, and a lucite award in the shape of Texas (with her name, our unit, and a design).

I polled all our people as to what gift we should get and then a bunch of ladies contributed money. I designed the engraving for the award and our First Sergeant's wife got it done and picked out a great card. I also picked up the charm bracelet and the gift certificate. We encouraged everyone to sign the card and we filled it up with thank yous to our FRG leader.

We have some good pics of the look on our FRG leader's face.

We also welcomed our new commander's wife with a little potted African violet.

All in all, I think we had a good time. I am so glad the weather held for the kids!

Rain, Rain, Go AWAY!!!

Today I am hosting the Battery Social and my house to give our FRG leader a break and also because we are planing to honor her.

I went out yesterday and got charcoal and was planning on a BBQ.

Now it is raining. Just figures...we've had perfect weather for our last few socials but when I'm trying to host one, it rains.

That wouldn't be so bad, but some of the ladies have kids that are at that highly energetic but uncoordinated age--when you basically want to run them around in the yard until they pass out and go to sleep. I'm afraid I don't really have the place set up for them indoors. I may try to move a VCR or DVD player into the guest bedroom so the kids can watch that for a little while.

I don't really know who is going to show up though--mom's with older kids, younger kids, or babies.

Well, I hope the rain stops and it is just a nice cool evening. Cross your fingers for me!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Room of Her Own...

Although my baby will be bunking in with me (and eventually my husband) until she is a little older, I don't think I'll be much up for preparing her nursery right after giving birth or right after DH returns.

So, my mom has been visiting and helping me lift/drag heavy objects home from various stores. Then I've been assembling the furniture (no pre-assembled for me--what do you think I am? made of money?) with her assistance.

Right now her nursery is a lovely sage green and it has a crib, a glider and ottoman for mom, and the dresser is almost assembled. Her bedding and accessories have a "jungle" theme. I also threw in some lavender accents just to girl it up a little.

She is still in need of a crib mattress (looks like the P/X has good prices) and a bookcase. Why are bookcases SO ridiculously expensive??? I was planning on using the dresser top for a changing table (it is designed to work that way) but mom is trying to convince me to just get a changing table, too.

Next step is to organize her closet.

It would have been nice if DH could have been here, but I think we are doing a decent job. I have a feeling, though, that DH will take one look at my handiwork and make furniture assembly one of my household jobs. It is one of his least favorite duties around the house. We'll see if I can pass it back to him when he returns...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Should I Marry a Soldier?

A woman wrote me who is trying to make some decisions about the future of her relationship with a military man who is considering special forces. She herself is former military (AF).

After explaining the background of her story, she asked:

And now it's up to me to decide if I can deal with it. I know I love this man...but I'm scared that love isn't going to be enough. I refuse to get into a marriage just to have it fail because of seperation when I could have prepared for it better to begin with. I feel that I know the information that the FRG's throw out there...but I would rather talk to someone who's been there. That knows how it feels.

I guess what I'm asking is, what do you wish you had known before getting married into the military? What things prepared you the best for the deployments? What do you wish you had done differently to prepare for it? What is the hardest part? How did you deal with it? What questions would you ask if you could go back to make sure that you knew exactly what you were getting into?

I know most of my readers are fellow spouses, so I thought I'd give you a crack at these questions, too. Feel free to chime in in the comments section.

This is my response:

First let me say that everyone's experience is unique. You can get others' opinions but in the end that may confuse you more. Ultimately only you will be able to answer your questions.

That being said, I also sometimes feel like getting may want to ask a number of military spouses these questions. Consider joining a military spouse board. [The one I go to is Household Six]

Now, as far as my answers to your questions, keep in mind that I married my husband BEFORE he joined up. So, I was in a different situation. I married a lawyer, not an Army Artillery Officer...but really I married the man, and that is the important part no matter what his career.

Right now, you don't know for sure yet whether or not he will be accepted into special forces, so I would cross that bridge when you get there. You may wish to consider a long engagement, too...which may not even be a choice if he has to go away for schools, anyway.

As someone who has been married 5 years, and has endured almost a year separation for my husband's training and six months and counting for a deployment, I can tell you marriages do not fail because of separations. Separations can make existing problems worse, but they do not make marriages fail.

I would seriously look at the basis of your relationship--do you share similar goals, values, and priorities? Do you communicate well in your own way? These are the things that will keep you close even when you are physically far away.

You also need to look at yourself. What are your needs and what skills do you have for your own emotional development? I love my husband dearly and we spend nearly every free minute together when he is home...but we also have separate interests. I have learned to push myself to talk to other people, even when I don't always feel like it. If you can't do that, being a military spouse will be very lonely.

I depend on DH when he is here, but when he is not, I can find things to accomplish that make me feel good about myself. I enjoy my work and my volunteering.

Are you capable of trusting someone? Do you trust him?

Do you always have to be in control or are you able to accept that certainly things are just beyond your control and not dwell on them.

Other than that, you can ask all the questions you want but your mileage is going to vary. You can ask about time at work while in garrison, frequency and duration of trainings, and frequency and duration of deployments...but truthfully those are going to vary so much based on assignments, commanders, and "needs of the Army," the answers you get will be essentially useless.

Knowing myself, my husband, and our relationship is what prepared me best--and that would be the same no matter what choices he and I made in our lives.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Vivid Neurotic Dreams

I have begun to have "inadequate mother" dreams, in which I am trying to take care of my baby and messing up:

Last night I placed her on the floor on a changing pad to change her. When I turned around from grabbing the diaper, she was gone. Someone pointed out a baby shape under a pile of blankets. Terrified she might smother, I pulled the blankets off and then found nothing under there.

You don't need to be a master of dream analysis to figure out these are just the common fears and anxieties of a new mother to be.

Just wondering--anyone else have these dreams while they were pregnant?

Friday, June 09, 2006

PSA: Remember to Check your Credit Annually

You may have heard about the theft of a computer from a VA employee, who had taken records home contrary to VA policy.

Originally the theft was thought to include the Social Security numbers of only Veterans. Recently, the news has reported that this information also includes active duty, guard, and reserve personnel.

So, ALL military personnel are urged to take measures to protect themselves from identity theft.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Good News in Iraq--Which Arab Street?

This article is a couple of weeks old, but I figured I would share with those of you who do not read National Review. I excerpted, but since it is mostly statistics, it is hard to cut.

The article's premise is that although the Iraqi war may seem to be a public affairs failure on the "Arab Street," Iraqis actually have a more positive view.

This is consistent with what my DH has been telling me.

Anyway, I'll let the article speak for itself for those of you who are interested.

The Word on the Street: What do Arabs think? by RICHARD NADLER

The reaction of the Arab street to the war in Iraq is well documented. But what the street says depends on which side of it is polled […] Iraqis, with their newfound freedom of expression and wide array of media, are getting a broader and more accurate view of the world than their politically oppressed neighbors, who hear a steady barrage of anti-American vitriol.

Surveys conducted by Zogby International between 2002 and late 2005 record opinion in six Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. The post-war opinions of Iraqis have been measured by the International Republican Institute, the Gallup Organization, and Oxford Research International. The differences are stark. […]

In the six-nation sample, respondents consider Iraqis “worse off after the war” by a margin of 77 percent to 6 percent.

But Iraqis disagree. Most applaud the destruction of the Baathist regime. By 52 percent to 29 percent they rate their lives as better post-Saddam, and by 48 percent to 18 percent they expect their lives to improve over the next year. Asked, “Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?” 77 percent answer “worth it.” This includes 91 percent of the Kurds surveyed and 98 percent of Iraqi Shiites.

[…] a plurality of Iraqis consider their situation to have improved from Baathist days in terms of overall security, safety from crime, and freedom of speech. Pluralities also cite improvement in the availability of education, medical care, and basic household necessities.

he Arab street outside of Iraq considers the post-Saddam government illegitimate and undemocratic. […] Sixty-five percent said the transfer was “cosmetic”; only 4 percent regarded it as “positive change.” […] Arab respondents characterized the war as bringing less democracy rather than more by 58 percent to 9 percent. […]

By contrast, most Iraqis consider the new regime both legitimate and democratic. The idea of democratic government wins the assent of 74 percent of Iraqis polled. Sixty-six percent of Iraqis, including 89 percent of the majority Shiites, characterize the December parliamentary elections as “free and fair.” Sixty-eight percent of Iraqis, including 81 percent of Kurds and 90 percent of Shiites, consider their parliament “the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.”

The surveys show that Iraqis want Coalition forces to leave — but no time soon. In a January 2006 poll, Iraqis preferred a withdrawal framework lasting two years or more to one of six months or less by 64 percent to 35 percent. Seventy-eight percent of Shiites and 85 percent of Kurds preferred the slower timetable. […]

According to Zogby International, the primary font of information in the region is “Arab commentaries in Arab media.” Among these, al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV-news station broadcast from Dubai, dominates the market.

In post-war Iraq, on the other hand, al-Jazeera’s worldview has some competition. Iraqis are able to see the progress their country is making firsthand, even as it goes largely unreported in the pan-Arab media. In addition, Iraqi media are much more diverse than those of other states in the region. They have swelled from three TV stations, three radio stations, and ten newspapers — all state-owned — to 44 commercial TV stations, 72 commercial radio stations, and over 100 independent newspapers. Opinion ranges from apocalyptic Shiism to classical liberalism to Marxism-Leninism. Some of these papers are friendly to the Coalition forces; others publish screeds blaming the U.S. for any and every problem. In short, the Iraqi press is free. […]

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Woman Writes, "My Abortion is Everyone's Fault but My Own and My Husband's"

After coming across this article at one of my favorite blogs (Sandmonkey), I actually feel physically ill.

This woman blames the Bush administration for her decision to have an abortion:

I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we're starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

Boo hoo! Poor two income couple who has no time together! At least she admits it was her failure to insert the diaphragm. Of course, that is the actual source of the "problem" she is about to have...but nevermind reality. Today middle class people expect to be above reality!

The next morning, after getting my kids off to school, I called my ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. As we're both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren't planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception [...]

The receptionist, however, informed me that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B. No reason given [...] The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day [...]

But I needed to meet my kids' school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options -- short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book -- I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best.

So, she's gambling on the odds. Yes, they are actually pretty good odds, but she knows that it is possible given the time of the month that she could be pregnant. But she's BUSY BUSY BUSY!!! Why bother to make some phone calls? She has better things to do. Note that she has a "complete" family--she has the full set. She just can't be bothered.

I worried because the odds of having a high-risk pregnancy or a baby born with serious health issues rise significantly after age 40. And I thought of the emotional upheavals that an unplanned pregnancy would cause our family. My husband and I are involved in all aspects of our children's lives, but even so, we feel we don't get enough time to spend with them as it is.

I felt sick. Although I've always been in favor of abortion rights, this was a choice I had hoped never to have to make myself. When I realized the seriousness of my predicament, I became angry. I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

It amazes me that people who call themselves "pro-choice" refuse to take responsibility for their own choices--what could have "prevented" her predicament would have been to (A) use a diaphragm (or condom, or some other form of birth control) OR (B) not gamble with the unborn life and prevent fertilization or implantation by call planned parenthood immediately after she realized her first mistake.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern -- valid or not -- wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

Oh, the is not like the government is fining women for having sex with their husbands...She faced a hard decision because she CHOSE to have sex with her husband without protection. Would she prefer that the government take responsibility for her reproductive decisions and have her sterilized since "her family is complete" and she is on medications that are bad for pregnant women? Then she would be free from any responsibility for her choices, which seems to be what she really wants.

To this day, I don't know why my doctors wouldn't prescribe Plan B -- whether it was because of moral opposition to contraception or out of fear of political protesters or just because they preferred not to go there.
In any event, they were also partly responsible for why I was stuck that Friday, and why I was ultimately forced to confront the decision to terminate my third pregnancy.

It's Bush! It's the FDA! The doctors! The pharmacists! Anyone but me!!!

[...] trying to get information on how to abort a pregnancy in 2006 is an even more Byzantine experience.

On the Internet, most of what I found was political in nature or otherwise unhelpful [...]

Not the smartest way to find the information, but I just did a Google search for Virginia Abortion and the second link was a list of Virginia providers.

This woman may be educated, but she ain't too bright.

Calling doctors, I felt like a pariah when I asked whether they provided termination services. Finally, I decided to check the Planned Parenthood Web site to see whether its clinics performed abortions.

NOW she calls Planned Parenthood. This lawyer is super brilliant. Not to mention she is killing an unborn child...I suppose everyone is supposed to make her feel good about this.

She also goes on to rail against STATE policy--so now it is Bush, the doctors, the pharmicists, AND the state government.

They did, but I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. Because of work and the children, I couldn't afford two days off, so I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

Wow. Again, she can't be bothered with two appointments to terminate her pregnancy. She's just too busy! If I get any "message" from this article, it is that this woman and her husband are too busy. One or both of them needs to reduce their workload since they have two young children and a marriage to care for.

It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening. But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

She HAD to make it, huh? Because she had decided her family was complete. Because the pregnancy is high risk (not that she actually had any tests done to find out if there were problems). Because she couldn't be bothered to be responsible for her own choice.

My personal beliefs are that abortion is wrong unless the mother's life is at risk or the baby will not survive outside of the womb--but since I recognize I came to that from a religious standpoint, it is not something I believe we can legislate.

However, I think we can legislate based on science. There are some clear stages here--conception, implantation, viability (although the actual date of viability is constantly changing and up for debate). Certainly a pregnancy should be protected once it is viable. Before that, it is murkier in ethical terms--though morally I personally believe it is crystal clear. It becomes clearer to me now having felt my baby grow inside me.

Now, this woman's fetus was not yet while I find her decision morally repugnant, she does have a legal right. However, her refusal to take responsibility for her own decisions is disgusting. She had choices available at various stages but could not be bothered to exercise them.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pets are an Important Responsibility

I am on the local freecycle list and every week (sometimes daily) I see several adds for people giving away pets. Occasionally, they have a really good reason and my heart just breaks for those people. Ninety percent of the time, though, they are people who shouldn't be allowed to have goldfish, let alone a cat or dog...

I'm in a little bit of a pissy mood about it. It just makes me so sad I think about leaving the list.

The following are valid reasons for giving your pet to a trusted friend:

1. Your children suddenly develop uncontrolable allergies.

2. You are temporarily moving to a foreign country (for example, to Korea for a year) with a long quarantine period and the animal would be more traumatized by the move and quarantine than it would be to drive down the street and go live with another nice family.

3. You become enganged to someone with uncontrolable allergies who is moving in (even then I would really think about whether I want the rest of my natural life to be cat-less...but that's just me).

4. You have developed a debilitating illness and can no longer physically care for your pet.

The following are STUPID reasons to give away your pet:

1. We just had a whole mess of puppies/kittens: Unless you are a professional breeder with show quality animals, please stop producing unwanted animals. There are plenty of cute puppies and kittens available for adoption.

2. It is messy/scratches things: DUH! Pets are messy. Cats like to scratch things. Rearrange stuff. Train them. Play with them. Work through it. If you can't, do us all a favor and never have children.

3. It eats all my plants: this is one I saw today that prompted me to write this. of one call. NOT!

4. I am about to have a baby and I just don't think I have the time. Are you going to give up this first baby when you have a second...since babies take a lot of time and you just can't see managing a toddler and an infant? Again, do us all a favor and get sterilized.

5. We didn't check our lease and now we have to get rid of our pet. You are just dumb.

6. We did not realize how much a pet costs. Again, D-U-M-B AND please don't breed (kids cost more than you probably realize, too). Ever.

7. We are moving and the apartment doesn't allow pets. This one is somewhat understandable if you've unexpectedly fallen on hard times and it is a larger pet. It can be hard to find apartments in certain areas of the country that can accomodate a larger dog. If it is a smaller animal, though, and your finances are stable--find a different place to live.